ACBM: Part 1 Chapter 6

Chapter 6 — The Enlightenment

The Enlightenment was the pinnacle of Western Civilization.

To understand the theological flavor and ritual traditions of any Christian denomination, one need only trace it’s birth. Broadly speaking, American expressions of Christian religion range between Medieval (Catholic and Episcopalian), Early Reformation (Lutheran and Evangelical), Late Reformation (Presbyterian, Reformed, Anabaptists), English Post-Reformed (Methodist, Puritan, later Baptists), and those that arose later in reaction to these various threads. There are a handful that reflect a strong element of the American religious revival around 1800, but everything else seems to rehash those previous themes. Each reflects the mythology of their birth with varying degrees of change as the social mythology drifts. Yet for the most part, virtually the entire range of American Christianity is deeply stained by the Enlightenment.

It’s not enough to understand what the Enlightenment was in historical terms. In this course we understand it most clearly from the impact it had on the intellectual climate. This intellectual movement had a dual center of gravity in London and Paris where a burgeoning middle class presence was tightly packed in exploding prosperity. They dared to challenge the Church and religion itself, along with the full range of aristocratic institutions. A new generation of aristocrats were actually willing to sponsor this social uprising, some out of sheer boredom with the constraining trappings of power. It was time to put away the old Germanic sense of duty and discipline as the only answer to a dreary world, and try to bring light and joy. They were rediscovering yet again the delights of rational thought applied to areas of life previously off limits such analysis. They were heady times.

However, there was one seriously fatal mistake in the midst of all this playful exploration. The culprit was Rousseau, sadly deluded by the conviction he could actually start from scratch in reasoning to truth. It hardly matters what he concluded or whether anyone consciously accepted his thesis; his audacity is what people absorbed. This was more than Aristotle picking through the wreckage of failed reasonings from his predecessors, but a fresh assertion of the limitless powers of human reason. But while Aristotle still allowed for things he could never understand, the seed was planted via the German mythology that crystallized the unspoken assumption that the known and knowable universe was the full limit of things. Having only the bad example of the Church and a few contentious rebels from the Church, spirituality was considered an integral part of religion and discarded as a single package. The otherworldly perspective was dispatched once and for all.

That near-universal apprehension of higher things was harnessed to the question of what man could accomplish. Previous boundaries to inquiry and exploration served only to crush the souls of men, so the rejection of all boundaries become a primary doctrine. Sin became a mere question of pragmatism. The question was never, “Why?” It was always, “Why not?” Any spiritual yearnings were dismissed as superstition. This didn’t so much happen during the Enlightenment as it arose from it; this was the fundamental effect of the various expressions of Enlightenment pursuits.

In many ways, America was the quintessential expression of the Enlightenment. The US Constitution is built directly on this intellectual movement, starting from scratch. The colonists were widely varied enough they could agree only not to repeat what had long been established in Europe and remained generally inescapable. Given the very strong but highly varied religious background in the colonial leaders, the only safe course for unity was to allow the dominance of the quintessential Enlightenment answer to religion: Deism, now known as Unitarian Universalism. While the Deist approach to the question of spiritual apprehension was entirely Aristotelian in shape, the underlying German morality was simply assumed as self-evident truth.

Modern feminist doctrine is little more than the current logical extension of this mix. Never mind the specifics of feminist politics; notice the underlying theme of materialism as expressed in the nest-building instinct of the European Earth Mother. The assumption that men are inherently troublesome boys with too much power therefore requires the women take them in hand and tame them, making them nice in the modern day extension of chivalry. Everyone has to be assumed equal and we dare not let anyone end up with a cookie smaller than everyone else got. That’s little more than the logical extension of things like human rights, democracy and equality. The West has always been inherently feminist and the chief deity was always female.

Of course, it has always been utterly impossible to level human society. The mere suggestion is dehumanizing, patting them on the head and saying it’s okay to be an individual snowflake so long as the consequences of individuality don’t interfere with the universal Mommy Spirit’s plans. At the same time, almost the entire female population can’t resist impulsively offering their favors to the tiny handful of men who are talented, yet refuse to be nice and chivalrous. Meanwhile these same women make endless justifications and rationalizations about each dalliance separately, and still demand of every other man the niceness that makes men despicable to them. They are no longer much interested in literal motherhood, but take a Nanny’s approach to all political and social questions.

We end up with a society that worships youth because it fears death. Extravagant resources are wasted on keeping bodies alive longer and longer, while life has less and less meaning. The otherworldly viewpoint is a joke among Christian pastors. With each passing year more and more churches join the new soft legalism of trying to have a better and more successful existence in the secular world. The only difference between church and secular pop psychology is the addition of religious talk and Bible verses used as a paint job. The Hebrew Jesus is suppressed with vigor and the Cross becomes the incongruous symbol of a fuller and happier life. Meanwhile, all manner of senseless political activism is sold as good religion. Christianity means nothing more than just another big, politically active entertainment business.

Forget what theologians say and teach; Western Christianity as a whole unconsciously assumes the social mythology of feminism as fundamental reality and operates as if there cannot actually be a Spirit Realm.

Recommended readings: Encyclopedic articles on the Enlightenment, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Voltaire and the American Revolution. A survey of Victorian England with a view to nascent feminism would be instructive.

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About Ed Hurst

Disabled Veteran, prophet of God's Laws, Bible History teacher, wannabe writer, volunteer computer technician, cyclist, Social Science researcher
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